Light Reading

Apple Eyes VoLTE as 4G Voice Gets Real

Dan Jones

Apple appears to be gearing up for high-definition voice-over-LTE (HD VoLTE) support in future mobile products

The company is currently advertising for a cellular systems protocol engineer, calling for experience with "VoLTE" and "IMS." Other positions are calling for experience with the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) protocol.

VoLTE uses SIP to initiate the 4G calls, which are transmitted in data packets, with the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) in the core network controlling the call session. There's a useful primer on how this all works here.

Apple is also looking for a senior baseband engineer to work on "cutting-edge" audio for its devices, which will include the Adaptive Multi-Rate Wideband (AMR-WB) speech compression codec, which is part of the VoLTE specification. The engineer will help to "implement, port, and deploy AMR-WB, AMR-NB, CELP, EVRC-B, EVRC, EVS Vocoders, and Jitter Buffers on Mobile devices," according to the ad.

Keep up with all the VoLTE news on our dedicated channel here on Light Reading.

The VoLTE timing could make sense for the iPhone 6, which is expected to be unveiled in September, since Apple's largest US carrier partners are launching limited service now or are expected to go live with VoLTE on their networks later this year.

"We will be launching VoLTE very soon here toward the tail end of this year," Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) CFO Fran Shammo said earlier in August. (See Verizon VoLTE Testing Spotted.)

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has VoLTE up in parts of four states in the US. (See T-Mobile Beats AT&T, Verizon to VoLTE.)

Of the four largest US carriers, only T-Mobile US Inc. has HD VoLTE available across its network. (See T-Mobile Expands VoLTE, Gets Going with 700MHz 4G.)

So far, 66 service providers spanning 35 countries have invested in VoLTE studies, trials or deployments, with 10 operators in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and the US having actually launched an HD VoLTE service. (See VoLTE Gains Velocity: GSA.)

VoLTE specialists Mavenir Systems Inc. recently stated that there are 92 VoLTE-capable devices on the market now, some of which will require a software upgrade to use the technology. "Apple has rumored that iPhone 6 and iOS 8 might both support VoLTE," said Mavenir CEO Pardeep Kohli on an earnings call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. "This will be the first Apple phone to support VoLTE, and its introduction this fall is expected to further the progress of VoLTE."

Apple typically doesn't reveal new features of its devices ahead of launch.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Blogger
9/3/2014 | 6:19:24 PM
Does 4 people really count as a line?
Supposedly people are starting to line up at the Apple store ahead of the expected iPhone 6 launch:
User Rank: Blogger
8/21/2014 | 6:38:28 PM
Re: LTE-Advanced & Apple
We should -- eventually -- be back to 90s landline standards and perhaps better with HD-LTE on AMR-WB! It's available on some devices on T-Mobile-to-T-Mobile calls now and what I've heard of the quality is really good.

Going to be interesting to see how it works between carrier networks though -- eventually!
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/21/2014 | 4:39:22 PM
Re: LTE-Advanced & Apple
Voice quality on mobile phone calls are in need of an upgrade. I believe that carriers have been laser-focused on keeping up with data demand, to the comic detriment of voice quality.

It's good to see that this is now going to change. 
User Rank: Light Beer
8/21/2014 | 4:12:18 PM
Re: LTE-Advanced & Apple
When I clicked "comment" I didn't see a box to type in, so I'll use reply.

Here in Richmond, VA, downtown, the Verizon LTE throughput is horribly bad, normally less than 1 MBps and can never stream any video, and frequently even an audio stream is tough to get started.  As a daily ritual I disable "LTE" on my Verizon devices when I come to work so at least they can chug along a little better in 3G.  Great advertising slogan, "Verizon Wireless, where our 3G is better than our 4G".

I must say outside of the downtown area the VZW LTE is quite a bit better, but nowhere what I've seen in Orange County, CA, and other major metro areas.

So I can imagine trying to pour voice over the same bandwidths and network that is already choked so badly in this area.  Cell phone audio quality is typically bad compared to the very high product we had achieved on land line phones by the 90s, where there was rarely even any pinging, echo, or noticeable delay in trans-Atlantic calls.  But that is the price we pay for mobility and convenience.  But think of this, there are teenagers running around who have never used a landline phone because it was discontinued at home in 2000 and think that all telephone voice service has always been crappy!
User Rank: Blogger
8/21/2014 | 9:53:25 AM
Re: LTE-Advanced & Apple
You mean LTE-A or VoLTE is for 2015+? Or both?
Gabriel Brown
Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/21/2014 | 8:41:32 AM
Re: LTE-Advanced & Apple

"This is most likley for the 2015+"

Agreed. Many Euro operators plan to have launched VoLTE by next summer so that *if* the 2015 iPhone suports it, they'll be ready. That's the basic timeline that nearly everyone is working on. This driving a lot of activity because of the fear you'll get left behind and out-marketed by competitors.

The voice-over-WiFi capability supposedly coming in this year's iPhone is viewed as a pre-cursor to VoLTE.
User Rank: Blogger
8/20/2014 | 5:41:37 PM
LTE-Advanced & Apple
Interestingly I couldn't find any mention of LTE-Advanced in the job ads. Not even hidden as the E-UTRA air inteference.


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